Jakarta — Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu on Sunday (04/06) urged strengthening regional multilateral cooperation to combat increased terrorism and Islamist radicalization in the Asia-Pacific region. Speaking in Singapore at the 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security conference attended by global leaders, Ryamizard called for closer ties, saying that “no single country can deal with and resolve security threats independently,” according to a statement released by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The defense minister also emphasized the importance of taking a “soft power” approach to fight terrorism, combining deradicalization and social awareness programs with law enforcement prevention methods. To teach those ends, he proposed the “establishment of a more concrete, pragmatic and concerted platform of regional cooperation and collaboration,” citing a need to expand and include more countries in the existing Trilateral Agreement between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to patrol the Sulu Sea. Originally established to reduce piracy in the area, the trilateral agreement has since “expanded and extended to fight the development of Islamic State in the region,” the minister said, adding that the pact also serves to resolve hostage situations, deter the free movement of terrorist groups and fight other forms of transnational crime. The three countries are expected to launch joint air patrols this month in addition to their naval presence and to incorporate spy planes and drones to monitor activity in regional waters. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) encompasses more than 600 million people, though leaders have recently become concerned about the growth of radical movements in the region, especially in the face of recent terror attacks in Jakarta and Marawi City, the Philippines. Ryamizard urged for closer ties partly based on a study conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which estimated approximately 1,000 Islamic State-affiliated militants operate the region. According to the minister, all ASEAN leaders need to work with each other to “increase [..] commonalities and similarities and “eliminate or decrease differences [..] to resolve common challenges and obstructions.” In 2015, a Pew Research showed that 79 percent of all Indonesians held an unfavorable view of Islamic State and ideology that the group promulgates. However, since Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Ryamizard noted that his countrymen are “prime targets for being influenced by radicalism,” touching on recent hardline Islamist campaigns that have shaken the Southeast Asian nation of 250 million. According to data from the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), around 2,690 Indonesians are suspected to be linked to terror networks in the region. Of them, 467 are reported to be former inmates of Indonesian prisons. Despite tracking alleged terrorists at home, BIN has limited authority to carry out preventive arrests, while most counterterrorism operations are handled by the country’s National Police, as stipulated by a 2003 law.